Friday, May 11, 2007
Almost Perfect, Yet Troubling
You would never believe they had lost 8 straight games. No way this team has the worst record in baseball. And, from the fan support tonight, no one could ever believe the reports of no one caring anymore. Tonight, 23,006 BOISTEROUS FANS witnessed the most complete game of the season by Our Washington Nationals. So much happened tonight both ON & OFF the field at RFK STADIUM. Cristian Guzman was a hero. Brian Schneider's bat came alive, with help of his newest family member in attendance. Shawn Hill pitched 5 No Hit Innings, and Ryan Langerhans provided one of THE MOST THRILLING CATCHES YOU WILL EVER SEE.
And, most importantly, Our FANS WERE THE MOST VALUABLE PLAYERS TONIGHT, coming off the bench in style, providing spark--giving their all. Not since late last season, have Our Nats heard such rampant support. From the get go, THIS CROWD WAS INTO THIS GAME, cheering as if rooting for a first place team in a pennant race. RFK STADIUM ROCKED TONIGHT for the first time, in some time. The Noise never stopping until the very last joyful out. What a great night to be at the old ballpark. When it was all said and done--Our Washington Nationals had completed a resounding 6-0 victory over The Florida Marlins. Bang!! ZOOM!! Went The Fireworks!!! Curly "W" Number 10 was simply--delightful! Yet, still left fans troubled over the possible loss of our top pitcher.
Our Best Starter, Shawn Hill was masterful early, pitching four complete perfect innings. The Fans beginning to count the outs early, looking for the NO-NO. Although he stumbled in the 5th with back to back walks to Josh Willingham and Aaron Boone, Number 41 fought back, like he has all season, and throughout his short career--retiring the next three Marlins in order. The RFK FAITHFUL ROARING ITS APPROVAL. With Washington up 1-0 on MY MAIN MAN!! Ryan Church's ground out single in the first, scoring Guzman--you had to feel this lead was safe for tonight. Really, until that point, Florida's Young Smashers--Hanley Ramirez, Dan Uggla, Miguel Cabrera and Willingham had been shut down. They were not a threat.
Then, out of nowhere, in the top of the 6th inning--Hill walked out to the mound and, without throwing one single warm up pitch, asked for The Trainer and Our Manager Manny Acta. The conversation brief, you could see the disappointment in his face. His right elbow was sore, again--a consistent problem throughout his entire professional career. Sadly, Shawn slowly walked to The Nationals 3rd Base Dugout. A Hero in the minds of every single fan standing cheering his terrific effort. Leaving with a No Hitter in tact--Shawn Hill's mind now more confused and worried than ever. An MRI to be administered on Monday to determine if there is serious damage. What a blow to his VERY PROMISING CAREER if something serious is found. You had to feel for him. Shawn Hill's Major League Career is on the rebound. There is nothing sadder than seeing A REAL COMPETITOR go down with an injury. Hoping for the best, expecting the worse, Shawn Hill's elbow soreness this evening the only downer for this otherwise excellent ballgame.
And not wanting to let Shawn down, Our Washington Nationals responded immediately in the bottom of the 6th--"THE GUZ" slicing a liner to left for his second hit, and then My Main Man!! Ryan Church, again, in the clutch--lacing a liner down the line off The Marlins Scott Olsen. A patented stroke by Number 19--when Ryan is hitting well--slashing hits down the right field line a telling sign. The ball bouncing around into the corner--Guzman running faster than I have EVER SEEN HIM RUN (quite frankly, HE WAS MOVING) and scored easily. A relay throw by Aaron Boone to home, bounced away--giving Church 3rd on the error. With the score now 2-0, one out--Austin Kearns stepped up and flew out to medium right center. But, Florida's Reggie Abercrombie has little arm strength. Ryan scoring easy on the Sacrifice Fly, giving Our Nats a 3-0 lead. Really, up three to nothing with two outs--most Nats Fans would have settled for that small lead. But, tonight, was not like most every other night this young baseball season. This evening Our Washington Nationals BATS CAME ALIVE. They continued to hit with the game on the line. Ronnie Belliard was next, grounding one into hole for a clean single. Schneider followed--providing a key moment.
For the very first time in this 2007 season, Brian's wife, Jordan and their new baby daughter Tatum, were in attendance for Mother's Day Weekend. Both sitting just to right of all of us in Section 320. Number 23 must have been mighty inspired, playing in front of his new love--With Olsen still struggling on the mound--Brian lofted a DEEP DRIVE to the wall in right near The Nationals Bullpen. Reggie Abercrombie kept drifting more and more toward the fence in right. Then WITH THE BALL CLEARLY OVER WALL, used his height and leaping ability to get the very top of his glove hand on the baseball. The moment the ball hit the web of his glove, his arm smashed against the fence--flipping the drive out of his glove and back onto the field. First Base Umpire Jeff Nelson ruling the safe call--the ball still in play. Belliard, running all the way, scored the 4th run of this game. Schneider, looking for the Home Run, happy to be standing at second with a key RBI Double. Jordan standing and cheering for her man, beside their young daughter.
And, of course, when Marlins Manager Fredi Gonzalez sent in MY BOY!!--Jorge Julio to relieve Lee Gardner, you knew the white flag was being raised. With me still yelling out--"COME ON!!! It's Jorge Julio!!! Our Washington Nationals responded, like they always do against this struggling reliever by scoring two additional runs in the bottom of the 7th--both charged to Gardner. But, the damage was done, the sixth and final runs of this game were scored.
From that point on, Our Bullpen settled in to take Our Washington Nationals Home. The No Hitter was broken up in the 7th when Willingham looped a liner to left off Saul Rivera that Ryan Church made a valiant effort on to catch--his sliding effort though coming up short. My Main Man!! also ripping his pants in the process, shredding them actually--eventually replaced in the game by Ryan Langerhans. Winston Abreu in the 6th, Rivera for the 7th, Jesus Colome in the 8th and Big Jon Rauch firing away in the 9th to close the door. A team shutout tonight--5 Nationals pitchers keeping in check one of the most powerful young lineups in the game.
But, not before every single person in attendance was TREATED to A GREAT DEFENSIVE PLAY. With Langerhans in the game for the 8th inning, Jesus Colome on the mound, Cabrera at the plate--I turned to The African Queen, saying "Power Pitcher against Supreme Power Hitter--this is a good match up." And it didn't take long for Cabrera to connect. On the third pitch of this At-Bat, Miguel (one of the most dangerous hitters in the game) just hammered a liner into left centerfield. For over two seasons of Nationals Baseball at RFK, Langerhans has chased down hard hits, time and time again, for The Atlanta Braves--killing countless Nationals' Rallies. Tonight, Number 4 was on our side--and he showed the home faithful his best stuff. Running swiftly on the crack of the bat, Ryan strode to his left at full speed, diving FULL OUT--STRETCHED TO THE MAX--EXTENDING his glove hand, his right hand (as he is a lefthanded thrower) snaring the blast in the pocket of his glove, all the while landing HARD and SLIDING along the outfield grass, head first. RFK STADIUM ERUPTED IN PURE JOY!! Langerhans catch to end the 8th inning was pure magic. A Catch to be replayed over and over again on the highlight shows. That play was masterful. I could just see Our General Manager Jim Bowden High Fiving everyone within his sight. Not a single Nats Player did not meet Ryan Langerhans at the steps on the home side dugout. Not a single fan was NOT STANDING ON THEIR FEET--ROARING. Everyone realizing what they just witnessed was SPECIAL. What A CATCH!! WHAT A CATCH!! Even Miguel Cabrera nodded to Langerhans as he stood on the field, also amazed at what he just saw. Cabrera knowing--HE HAD JUST BEEN ROBBED!!
What a nice feeling leaving RFK STADIUM TONIGHT. Its just one game, but what a fun, enjoyable baseball game it was. You never know, you can never anticipate, you have no idea what baseball has in store for you--each and every day. The smiles, happiness and good times had by many tonight, helped erase some of the suffering from the first six weeks of the 2007 season. Now, if only Shawn Hill is OK--this game truly would have been perfect.
Game Notes & Highlights:
Our Washington Nationals knocked out 15 hits tonight against The Florida Marlins. Not only did Guzman and Schneider have 3 hits apiece. "The Guz" scored 3 runs in his most complete game this year. Church had two hits, two RBI. Belliard & Logan added two singles apiece. In many respects, we looked like a team tonight.
Although, the Ronnie Belliard Experiment at First Base needs to end right now. He was charged with an error in the top of the 6th when Scott Olsen hit a lazy grounder to FLop at second. FLop made a lazy throw to first. The Ball did land right into a stretching Belliard's glove. Ronnie simply dropped it. Later, in the 7th, Abercrombie would chop a ball down the 3rd base line. Zimmerman made the backhand catch, but the toss slightly to the right field side of first base. Belliard, being small in stature, just can not reach errant throws that most every other first baseman can. Ronnie had to come off the bag for what really should have been a sure out. Abercrombie awarded a single. Yeah, the throw wasn't perfect, but it was good enough.
Zimmerman also would make a fine running, over the shoulder catch to end the 7th on a foul by Alfredo Amezaga. Ryan runs hard down the left field line in foul territory better than most every other third baseman in the game. It was a quality big league catch. And, would have been The Defensive Play of the Game until Langerhans far exceeded Zimmerman's effort.
Miguel Cabrera may be a TERRIFIC IMPACT HITTER, but he is a terrible fielder. Tonight, Cabrera was charged with 2 errors and could have received a third. This man needs to find another field position to play. At 3rd base, he's killing The Marlins.
Before tonight's game, Our Washington Nationals announced that Hitting Coach Mitchell Page had been put on medical leave, and Minor League Instructor (and long time Major Leaguer) Lenny Harris was called up to replace Page. Page telling MLB.com that his medical problem is not alcohol related.
And, before tonight's game, Nick Johnson took grounders at first for the first time since his terrible injury last September. Still no time table when he shall return to the lineup.
As the game ended tonight, Jordan Schneider came over to say hello to The African Queen and I. When she and Brian's Daughter, Tatum, was born this past March 3rd, I wrote a congratulatory post on The Nats 320 Blog. Apparently, Brian noticed and showed it to Jordan. Graciously, she wanted to Thank Us for that post, telling me she appreciated the "SHOUT OUT" as she stated. Sohna and I thanked her. "You two are good luck," I said. "This is your first game and we won--convincingly. Hopefully, you will be coming back more often?" "We hope so," Mrs. Schneiderman responded. "Its good to be back. Thanks again for your kindness." Jordan has always enjoyed Section 320.
Finally, Chad Cordero's GrandMother, Josie--passed away this morning. She was 76 years old. Josie is The Mother of Chad's Father--Ed. The African Queen and I were saddened to hear the news. Only our best goes out to their family.
Tonight's InGame Photos--(AP) Nick Wass